The LRPS was something that I had been working towards for some time. Often I am my own worst critic, which I’m sure goes for most photographers, so for the longest time, I simply didn’t think I was good enough to even attempt it. However, having it on the horizon gave me something to aim for and work towards. But where to start?
For those of you not familiar with the RPS distinctions, they offer three levels, the Licencete (LRPS), the Associate (ARPS) and Fellowship (FRPS). Each one is progressively more difficult than the previous one. The LRPS, despite being entry-level, it is not easy. The RPS describe it as “demanding, but achievable for most dedicated photographers,”. You have to submit a panel of 10 images arranged in a panel (your 11th image, but more about that later). This is then judged by a panel of judges.
I contacted my camera club president to see if they had any words of wisdom regarding the process. They kindly put me in touch with a fellow club member with an Associate distinction with the RPS. So we met up over coffee, and he explained the process and how best to achieve it. My eyes had been opened! I had, of course, read the information and articles on the RPS website, but this was different. I now understood it better and felt I had a clear path to follow. So my advice, find someone who has a distinction and get their advice (Preferably someone who has recently earned it and pick their brains).
I still didn’t feel I was ready yet. The quality of my work just wasn’t quite there yet. So I just needed to develop (no pun intended) my skills just a bit more. A good place to start was the RPS technical guidance document on their website (https://rps.org/media/andlqgih/dg002-lrps-requirements-august-2022.pdf) I would say it is crucial you read this document, as it clearly states the standard to which you will be judged. Think of it as the answers to the exam.
After a while, I felt it was time to dip my toes into the water, and I attended a local advisory day. I elected to present my photographs in print. For those of you that are interested, I use the Canon PIXMA Pro 100S printer on Fotospeed Platinum Baryta 300 Photo paper mounted against a white border. At the time, my screen was calibrated, but my printer wasn’t.
So off I went to Bridge of Allen for my assessment. I was pleasantly surprised by my feedback. I was close, not quite ready, but very nearly there. Some of the images I could use for my final panel, and some I would need to swap out.
I had decided that I wasn’t going to put any time pressure on myself. After all, a part of this was about enjoying the journey. So a bit more time to further my skills and get some more photos together.
After a little bit of time, I changed my mind and decided a did need a little bit of time pressure. I’m fickle that way. So I booked myself a one-to-one session with an LRPS assessor. This is a bit like a mentoring session, you resent a draft panel and they will give you their thoughts and talk you through it over about an hour or so. Afterwards, I needed to make a minor adjustment to one image and to swap out another one for one of my spares.
Now here comes the tricky bit. The best way to think about it the submission is it is made up of 11 images. Yes, your entering 10 individual images, but the way you arrange them in your panel is your 11th image. So you need to consider what the colour gradient is across the panel. Is there a balance between dark and light images? How many rows will you have? If you have a portrait (animal or human), make sure they are looking into the panel, not out. Have a bird in flight? Make sure it’s flying into the panel. If you’re using a monochrome, what’s balancing it on the other side? So you might have individual images that are good enough for submission, but can you make them work together in a panel?
So 10 mock panels later, I had decided on my final one and sent in my submission.
When the day came around, I was sixth up. First were the print submissions (I had submitted digitally due to a problem I was having with my printer). All of the print submissions were denied a distinction. Now I was feeling nervous.
Eventually, it was my turn. The judges will look at the images twice, silently, and then cast their first vote. Then two were invited to speak about the image. The first judge was very complimentary about my panel, especially the landscapes (I prefer my bird pictures myself). All positive stuff. Then the second judge came up. He began by also being positive but then said he thought he saw chromatic aberration on three of my landscape and that he wanted to look at them again enlarged. At this point, my heart sank. If there was any chromatic aberration that would be my distinction out of the window. But I was certain there wasn’t any, was there? The images were brought up one by one for inspection. The second judge decided he was mistaken and he couldn’t see any signs of chromatic aberration. Thanks for giving me a heart attack!
My name was announced, I had achieved my distinction. Phew!
So, now to start working on getting my ARPS, no rest of the wicked (or in my case the foolish).
My submitted panel: